Communication gap lands flyer in soup

Published: 05th July 2013 08:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th July 2013 08:00 AM   |  A+A-

As if it isn’t bad enough that most passengers find it hard to understand the accents of next-gen air hostesses, a communication gap with the grim CISF security guards can end up messing with your travel plans, as a lawyer flying to Kuala Lumpur found out on Thursday. According to witnesses in the international terminal, Prema Manobalan (28), a Malaysian national and a practising lawyer arrived at the Chennai International Airport at 8.30 am to return to Malaysia on Malaysian Airways flight MH 183, slated to take off at 11.45 am.

After clearing security, the woman and her companion were surprised when a woman CISF constable picked her out of the waiting line and asked her to come aside with her baggage for a 'bomb' check. “She was insulted and asked in Tamil and English why she wanted to check only her,” said a witness to the proceedings, an Air India officer who was passing through. Unfortunately for her, the constable whose linguistic prowess in English was questionable at best, responded in Hindi and insisted that she step away from the departure gate and come for an additional check. Later, CISF officers clarified that the bomb and incendiary detection check was done on a random basis, based on the profile of the passengers, and that the constable was well within her duty in doing so.

“The passenger grew agitated and started screaming at the guard in Tamil and English. What really irritated the guard was that the woman used some foul language,” said an airport source. This is where the scene apparently exploded into a full fledged argument, until sub-inspector S S Rathore stepped in and attempted to clear the issue in English. “Even though he explained, the passenger remained combative and CISF forces decided to press charges and detained them,” said a top CISF officer.

To the consternation of both passengers, their passports were confiscated and they were told that they would not be allowed to leave the country. Agitated, they raised a hue and cry until airport staff urged them to take the matter to the Airport Manager. The passengers had contacted the embassy and they had applied pressure to the Malaysian Airways staff in the airport to sort things out. “Both said that the other person had used abusive language, but neither of them could understand each other,” said an Airports Authority of India official, “As the time of the flight’s departure neared, the passenger relented and tendered a written apology and was allowed to leave,” he added. A stern warning was issued to the CISF staff to refrain from confiscating passports.

This incident is starkly familiar to the one involving Sergeu Igorzauskas, a cartoonist who worked for French daily Le Monde. Sergue had been waiting to board a flight on August 30, 2006, when he felt the urge to light up. He was puffing away when a CISF guard asked him to put it out in Hindi. Not understanding, Sergue continued to smoke only to have the guard pull the cigarette out of his mouth. Fisticuffs resulted and it was suggested that the CISF, Customs and Immigration staff be given refresher courses in soft skills.

OPS Secy Not Let In

On Thursday evening, personal aides of Finance Minister O Paneerselvam, who were flying to Madurai, were not allowed to enter through the staff gate and stopped by a CISF constable. Again, all their identification fell on deaf ears and they had to use the normal entry route.

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